NY Times article: Inhaling dirty air can cause heart attacks and brain loss

[ Posted on March 20th, 2012 by Porsche Johnson | No Comments » ]

Image: Danilo Rizzuti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s well documented that air pollution can increase hospital visits among asthma patients but a recent NY Times article cites three separate studies that collectively have determined polluted air can go beyond our lungs and can be just as bad (if not worse) for our heart and brain.

The first study by Brown University in Providence, R.I. reviewed medical records of more than 1,700 women living in the Boston area who had suffered an ischemic stroke. According to the study, the risk of ischemic stroke rose by 34 percent on days when pollution went from “good” to “moderate.”

“At levels that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says are safe, we’re seeing real health effects,” said Dr. Gregory A. Wellenius, the lead author of the study. We saw these effects within 12 to 14 hours of when pollution levels went up.”

In the second study, researchers from Rush University in Chicago studied medical records of nearly 20,000 elderly women between the ages of 70 and 81. The results showed that the smoggier the location the participant lived in over the long-run, the faster the rate of brain loss they experienced.

The third study from researchers in Paris found that pollutants in smog, carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide can cause a sharp increase in the risk of heart attack.

According to Dr. Wellenius, reducing air pollution levels just 20 percent, “would have prevented about 6,000 of the 184,000 hospitalizations for stroke in the Northeast region” in 2007 alone.”

The good news: there are simple tips you can do to decrease the amount of polluted air you breathe:

1) Replace oil and air filters regularly: Keep your vehicle well maintained. A poorly maintained engine both creates more air pollution and uses more fuel.
2) Save electricity: Turn off your TV sets, computers, DVDs and you will save about 10 percent of your electricity bill. Less electricity consumed means less power produced and fewer pollutants into the air from burning of fossil fuels.
3) Go for local produce: Transporting goods long distances creates a lot more air pollution than transporting them short distances.

Read the NY Times article.

Recommended Articles:

1) Ambient Air Pollution and the Risk of Acute Ischemic Stroke (Archives of Internal Medicine)
2) Exposure to Particulate Air Pollution and Cognitive Decline in Older Women (Archives of Internal Medicine)
3) Main Air Pollutants and Myocardial Infarction  (The Journal of the American Medical Association)

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Porsche Johnson

Porsche Johnson is the community relations manager for the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research's Health DATA Program. Johnson is responsible for building strategic partnerships in the community that build awareness and support the Health DATA Program and all of its projects.

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